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Our bus takes us to the Eastern part of Istanbul and from the window, I catch this picture of a Henna dyed sheep. It has some significance in weddings, and I can’t remember what. I thought it was a pet, but instead it is a tradition of some type.

Independence Statue

At Taxsim Square stands the Statue of Independence. Behind is a green area where the city decided to cut down the trees and build a shopping complex and new apartments. The people of Istanbul have very little green area and people protested the idea of cutting down their park and people organized a protest in May. The City sent troops to pepper spray and teargas the crowds that reached 10,000 people. Four people were killed and the citizens are still aligned against the project. The anniversary of the protest was imminent, and the statue was taped off with yellow tape when we were there. The government is expecting trouble, but the trees remain. People hated the imperialistic manner in which it was done. The problem is still not resolved. Usla believes strongly in speaking up for what you believe or you will soon have everything taken from you. Thus he spoke loudly that folks around the square could hear him.

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The square is an important cultural part of the city with an opera hall and a place to gather and hold huge outdoor events and meetings. The nearby park is treasured and the people do not want to give it up.

This section of the city is where a lot of the Kurdish people live. Renovated buildings show a layer of history built during the European Art Noveau movement and the area is central to transportation throughout  Istanbul.

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Pigeons seem to define places like this all over the world.

We walked to the Tram Station then fanned out to pick a place to have lunch on our own.DSC04751 (Copy)

Owen had chicken shish, the rest of us tried various dishes, pizza, and an eggplant salad for me. DSC04749 (Copy)

They offered a special sticky rice type pudding with cinnamon that was quite good.

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Usla warned us to line up for the tram ride to the funnicular or we wouldn’t get a seat. Our group practically filled the tram which is an old fashioned electric trolley similar to San Francisco’s famous cable cars.DSC04753 (Copy)

A grandmother got on holding a heavy toddler and I offered to have him sit on my lap, which she gratefully accepted. He rode to our stop on my lap without any hesitation. Other’s of our group gave up their seats to others.DSC04759 (Copy)

Joan Zucker, from our group, and Maria and Owen in front of the colorful street cars.

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We walked and admired the art noveau buildings.DSC04762 (Copy)

A little grafitti, no city escapes its taggers.

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Beautiful wrought iron balconies.

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Beautiful carved facades.

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Though European influenced, a blend develops,  window grates with the Turkish tulip motif.

traffic control

Traffic control is amazing. Lighted pillars electronically pop up or retreat with the press of  the engineer’s button.

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We waited for the funicular.

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Owen likes to challenge his balance. It was the longest tunnel I’ve ever ridden through.

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Beautiful tiles in the station, with the tulip design that resembles the Moslem writing of the word Mohamed.DSC04775 (Copy)

Beautiful tile mosaics of the street cars and other scenes around town decorate the station.

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We got off next to the river where a tobacco salesman was hawking a device to make loose tobacco into a filtered cigarette, instantly.

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It was very clever, but we Americans are so anti-smoking and we see most Turkish men smoke cigarettes or cigars.

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At least the Turkish Government makes them label their tobacco products clearly.

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Our intended destination is the fish market, which also has a smaller vegetable market with it.

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There were many kinds of fish.DSC04786 (Copy)

Right next to the river, they keep the fish freshened with buckets of water and ice.

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Like Fishermen’s Wharf in San Francisco, you can pick what you want, someone will cook it for you and you can eat on the spot.DSC04798 (Copy)

The only fish I recognized.

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The gulls and this ibis aren’t choosy about the kind of fish they eat. Just bring it on.

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We walked over this bridge to another section of town. This boy was picking up mussels.

Usla took us to a district where various members could buy walking sticks quite cheaply for hiking. They fold and fit into a suitcase. Then we went to what Usla pointed out is the only baklava restaurant in the world. They only serve baklava which is considered the best baklava anywhere.

This is a dessert

This is the size baklava you order for a party or wedding.

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A glag motif.

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Different types of baklava.

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Some traditional, but for me, I find it too sweet for my taste.

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I skipped but for a tiny bite of two pieces. Owen, of course, loved them, but even he couldn’t empty the plate shared between six of us.

Before leaving Istanbul, we told Usla we wanted to try the Turkish bath. Of course, you can’t bring a camera to the baths. But, this is a description. You are given a key to a locker room where you undress and leave all of your belongings except the key on a board. Then you are escorted to a sauna which is a huge marble, heated round dais where you place your towel and lie on it and people come and splash you with warm water. Faucets are around the dias and mother’s with their young children are seated, bathing them and getting them used to the public bathes as a treat.

The heat is intense. Five minutes was enough for me and I was up and splashing with cooler water.

In fifteen minutes we were led into the scrub room with our towel we lay upon a marble slab and the masseuse scrubs you with a sack filled with a foaming type of soap. Then they use a luffa to scrub you from head to toe to remove dead skin. You are rinsed and sent to the next room where you get a massage in olive oil. After that, wrapped in your towel, you relax and enjoy a rocking chair and some apple tea. Then you get dressed and pay and leave. Men are separated from women, of course, but you feel wonderful after leaving the bath.

Turkish people are very clean and they have ritual baths at time of wedding, funerals, circumcision, birthdays, engagement, graduation, for whatever reason. They are an important custom that formed from their own sense of cleanliness and a modification of the Roman baths. Wonderful. Owen resisted at first and then decided to go and was very pleased with the experience.  Me too.

More tomorrow.


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